America needs fewer enemies. What’s wrong with reducing tensions?
President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, days after meeting with our NATO allies in Europe. Both meetings are important, and both cause confusion among politicians and those who report on them back home.
Foreign policy is difficult. It comes in many shades of gray, and those who treat it as a team sport do harm to our safety and to our politics.
Politicizing international affairs is a dangerous game, but that hasn’t stopped far too many in Washington, who seem to have forgotten that a vital part of keeping America safe and secure is avoiding war through strong and consistent diplomacy, from playing politics. One way they do that is to insist we not meet with or speak openly to our adversaries on the world stage.
I disagree. Dialogue is especially important when hundreds of millions of lives are at stake, as is the case in relations between the United States and nuclear-armed Russia. So I applaud Trump for both chiding our NATO allies and greeting its expansion with skepticism, and I applaud him for sitting down with Putin. We should be doing more of such self-examination and dialogue.
Throughout history, including during the height of the Cold War, both sides maintained constant dialogue and communications. Even during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we had diplomatic relations and constant communications.
Unfortunately, over the past two years, some have fueled a hysteria that has created such a paralysis regarding Russia that regular meetings and communications have ceased, and one can be accused of “collusion” merely for agreeing to a routine meeting with elected Russian officials who might be visiting Capitol Hill.
The hostile climate created by Russophobes has resulted in a vacuum in cultural, educational and even legislative exchanges, while elected officials from both Washington and Moscow are now on so-called ban lists. Nothing will be achieved by each country shutting the door to the other.
We must find a way to keep our historic allies, while realizing that threatening Russia through NATO expansion is not the answer. As Georgetown Professor Charles Kupchan stated, “From Moscow’s perspective, NATO has ignored [Russia’s] vociferous objections and expanded … bringing the world’s most formidable military alliance up to Russia’s borders. … Moscow perceives a threat … helping fuel the confrontational turn in the Kremlin’s foreign policy and renewed rivalry with the West.”
Of course, we don’t have to make decisions based on whether they will or will not make Russia mad. But we should at the very least recognize the impact of our actions before we take them. There seems to be a lack of thought and rush to action among some who criticize the president for meeting with Putin.
Russia doesn’t need to be considered our friend. But we certainly have overlapping interests — Syria, Islamic terrorism and energy — that require us to have an open dialogue and relationship.
I am thankful that Trump is once again willing to go against the political elite in Washington and keep the lines of communication to Moscow open.
In just a few weeks, I will take my own trip to Russia in an attempt to discuss common ground with their leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions. We will discuss trade, cultural exchanges and how to better work for peace and prosperity in the world. I look forward to consulting with Trump between his visit and mine and to working with diplomats from both countries to have a successful trip and better relationships. Millions of lives could be at stake.